Dr. Ralph Stanley, 1927-2016

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Today we are mourning the loss of another one of the greats, Dr. Ralph Stanley. There are a number of excellent obituaries and remembrances of Stanley across the news today and we would encourage you to read about Stanley’s remarkable life and career. Considering the mark he left on the world of traditional music and popular culture, It is no surprise that Stanley is such a prominent figure in the Southern Folklife Collection and we wanted to share a few of those items with you today in tribute. The photos above are from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), featuring the Carters and the Clinch Mountain Boys at Valley View country music park in Hellam, PA in 1956. Another favorite from the Seeger Collection features the Carters with Roscoe Holcomb on tour in Bremen, Germany in 1966. pf-20009_122_02_r_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

I couldn’t help but pull out some of the Rich-R-Tone 78 rpm discs from the SFC sound recordings. Recorded in 1947, these Stanley Brothers recordings, their first commercial recordings as a group, remain some of my favorite bluegrass of all time. Listen to “The Jealous Lover,” from 78-16252, and the classic “Little Maggie,” from 78-16253, here:

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18_16252_78_16253_Stanley Brothers_Rich_R_Tone_Southern Folklife Collection_UNCYou can listen to live performances throughout Stanley’s career, from country music parks, to radio performances, clubs like the Ash Grove, college tours, and more from recordings i in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) and the Eugene Earle Collection (20376) in particular, but there are numerous recordings across the SFC collections. If you would like to hear more, please contact or visit us at the SFC. We were very lucky to welcome Ralph Stanley to The Wilson Library in 2006 for an extra special conversation and concert. Sitting 10 feet away from a legend in a special collections reading room as he sings acapella is something that we will never forget. Rest in peace, Ralph, I’m sure you and Carter’s harmonies sound even sweeter now.

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Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, P1545 and P1548, in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), southern folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HIll

Turkey time at the Southern Folklife Collection

We recognize that some of you might prefer an entrée other than the noble bird when feasting on Thursday. Perhaps, like Curly Ray Cline, you’d rather serve the noble pig and we would not begrudge your decision, just as we would support our vegan folk compatriots with extra helpings of dairy-free pumpkin pie and whip up a casserole for the National Day of Mourning.

I wonder about Curly Ray’s pork preference because he is a personal friend of Dr. Ralph Stanley, and everyone knows, Dr. Stanley can call up some turkeys whenever he pleases. You can learn from the Doctor himself, documented on the record above, call no. FC8559 in the Southern Folklife Collection. Listen:

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Truth is, we at the SFC duly honor the bird (there are at least 148 different versions of “Turkey in the Straw” in the Collection), but perhaps not as much as the legendary steel guitarist, Red Rhodes**, whose “Great American Thunder Turkey” from his 1979 release on Ashire Records Steel Guitar, call no. FC14363, has become the soundtrack to our archival lives.

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**SFC Steel Guitar Symposium and Concert coming up March 25, but before that the Fiddle Symposium and Concert is right around the corner on January 11 and 12. see Link for more details.